Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thailand: Update--US Animal Lover, 24, Trampled by Elephants in Kaeng Krachan National Park?

According to The Associated Press, Lily Glidden, 24, an American animal lover and graduate of Tufts University, was apparently trampled by elephants at Thailand's largest national park (Kaeng Krachan National Park) last week.

The US Department of State identified the young American from Freeville, NY, which is near Ithaca. Glidden's body was found by park rangers on January 18, five days after she had gone solo into Kaeng Krachan National Park, in the western province of Petchaburi.

Tufts, located in Medford, MA, said it was "saddened to learn of the death of Lily Glidden."
"We extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of this talented young woman." 

COMMENT: First of all, our condolences and sympathies go out to the Glidden Family at this time of grief and the loss of such a young person.

Secondly, and tragically, Ms. Glidden's love of animals may very well have exceeded her level of  security awareness and experience in assuming that a person of 24 years of age could handle any "natural world" threat solo. 

Having lived in Thailand for several years, where even an experienced woodsman and Marine veteran such as myself is cautious and cognizant of the threats in the threats posed in Thai game parks, I can only hope that young adults reading this will realize that going into any area where predators of all sorts are present is simply not a good idea, particularly if you are ALONE.

Specifically, when you don't have the ability to rely on the eyes and ears of others, particularly when sleeping and resting, a person alone may be at risk of clear and present dangers.

As I have said in other postings, Thailand has numerous poisonous snakes, including the aggressive King Cobra, a variety of species of pythons that can reach 20 feet (5.7 meters), tigers,  leopards, elephants, rhinoceros, banded kraits, etc. 

As regards elephants, and keeping in mind that Kaeng Krachan National Park encompasses 950 square miles, poaching at Kaeng Krachan  continues to be a problem. 

In recent years, park rangers have found numerous dead elephants in Kaeng Krachan, and have, according to http://www.savetheelephants.org, even included some park officials as suspects in wide-spread poaching. Most recently, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawantra directed a crackdown on allegations of unchecked poaching inside Kaeng Krachan.

Given an elephant's high intelligence and cognitive skills, it is entirely possible that Ms. Glidden found herself surprised by elephants that believed she incorrectly posed a threat to them. 

The severity of Ms. Glidden's injuries led rangers to conclude that the American woman was attacked by elephants, although park rangers are continuing with their investigation.

Yet, I'm very surprised that park rangers at Kaeng Krachan have not requested a prominent anthropological pathologist to conduct an autopsy on Ms. Glidden's body to determine if she in fact was killed by elephants.

Kaeng Krachan, about 120 miles (201 kilometers) southwest of Bangkok (near Hua Hin), and is the largest national park in Thailand.

Ms. Glidden's family said she had "an educated and dedicated respect for the natural world and was comfortable in it." The family also said she had engaged in extensive hiking and backpacking and knew how to respond to chance encounters with bears and other potentially dangerous animals.

At this stage it is unknown as to why Ms. Glidden did not retain the help and the assistance of an organized and reputable tour operator familiar with Kaeng Krachan. Then again, perhaps we may never know. 

Sadly, if the young American had retained the services of a reputable tour operator in the Park, she potentially could be alive today.